Search Results for: label/Stacy London

Stacy London’s The Truth About Style Book and Tour

Thursday night I had the pleasure of seeing Stacy London speak at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in DC. Her book, The Truth About Style came out this past Tuesday and after seeing the book trailer I knew I had to be at the speaking engagement.


I met Stacy London a few months ago when she was at a local mall promoting the partnership between her company Style for Hire and Westfield Malls. The experience made me a London fan for life – she’s so real, and she truly cares about helping women feel beautiful and comfortable in clothing. Thursday night, I realized that she cares even more so about women feeling beautiful and comfortable in their own skin.

I don’t want to give much away about what she discussed or what the book is about because I truly think this is a style book that you should read. Borrow it from the library, loan it from a friend, sneak into a nook of Barnes and Noble or splurge on a copy – you won’t regret it. I can just say that Thursday night gave me such motivation regarding this blog.

When I started this blog, I wasn’t terribly happy about my body. I had a lot of opinions about fashion and style, a lot of rules, and a lot of snark. Through blogging, I got to know so many readers – you weren’t pageviews but people. I saw that I wasn’t alone in not liking the body I was in, and I saw that my snark wasn’t benefiting anyone. What’s the point of a fashion blog (or book for that matter) that dismisses those who don’t “get” fashion, that pigeonholes all women into one lump who needs a white shirt, tan trench, and a strand of real pearls?

Through blogging and through changes in my life (hello new awesome job and new awesome child) I began loving this body.  It’s not perfect… but then no one has a “perfect” body. I came to terms with it, and decided to work with it. And I also changed my voice on this blog – women don’t need another person telling them what they’re doing wrong, we need voices to give us food for thought and tips on how to feel comfortable, feel ourselves, and recognize our beauty.

 

I still have strong opinions on fashion and style, but now when I write I don’t just think about me and my little patch of Earth, but I try to make it more universal, more accepting. And Thursday night I learned that through her ten years on What Not to Wear, Stacy London has had the same experience. Dealing with real women has made her more sympathetic, sensitive, and understanding to others and also to herself. And her book The Truth About Style is about just that. This book won’t give you a list of ten must-have items in your closet, or tell you how to hide your hips or tummy. It won’t tell you what color to wear if you’re a brunette or redhead, and it won’t inform you of what items should be purged from your closet. But it will help you realize how fellow women have learned to find personal style… and may help you find yours along the way.

 

At the event with friends and fellow bloggers Nancye, Heidi, Alison, Chelsea, and Dana

And if Stacy London’s book tour is coming to a city near you, I encourage you to get a ticket to attend. She is funny, she is raw, she is honest, and she is inspiring. And she may just renew your faith in fashion, style, and yourself.

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Stacy London and the Westfield Style Tour Come to Maryland

It’s official, I have drank the Stacy London Kool-Aid, and I have to say it’s pretty delicious.

I have been a fan of TLC’s show, What Not to Wear for many years. Unlike many makeover shows, What Not to Wear keeps it real, helping real women with real lives learn how to dress their bodies. Stacy London and Clinton Kelly focus on flattering the figure a woman has, instead of worrying about the latest trends. London doesn’t mince words on the show, though she provides real-life advice on how to dress one’s body as well as one’s lifestyle.

Along with offering advice on What Not to Wear, London and Cindy McLaughlin co-created Style for Hire, an online agency that matches women with trained stylists in their area. Style for Hire began in the DC area and is now available nationwide for consultations, closet audits, personal shopping sessions, and more.

This past weekend (as well as this coming weekend), Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Maryland is hosting the Westfield Style Tour. The Westfield Style Tour offers free beauty makeovers, free professional fashion consultations with Style for Hire stylists.  They created a pop-up in Center Court with mannequins showcasing spring fashions, racks of clothing and shoes from mall shops for five-minute fashion consultations, and stylists and makeup artists to provide on-the-spot makeovers.  This past weekend, they also offered an opportunity to meet and get your photo taken with London, who is also the Creative Director for Westfield Style.  

London and her Style for Hire stylists focus on geometry – the shape of your body and the shape of garments, coming up with the perfect flattering equation. They work with you to help shopping be enjoyable, and successful. They begin with a five-minute consultation, will take their clients to the mall to learn how to shop for their bodies, and help them find easy basics from which to grow their wardrobe. Seeing and hearing Stacy London discuss Style for Hire was awesome – I had heard of the program (and know a few talented folks who are part of it), but after hearing her passionately preach the benefits, I knew it was a program worth the money to consider.

I always wonder how a slim woman from the fashion industry like London came to be a woman who really “gets” the issues many find with dressing their bodies. From London’s Wikipedia page I found this quote from her:

“I have been every size in my life. I’ve been smaller than a zero, up through a size 16. I’ve had lots of issues with body image and weight my whole life and it really took a great deal of work to recognize that at all those weights, no matter how I felt, I could still find a dress that made me feel sexy and powerful.”

I was lucky to have an opportunity to interview Stacy London before the Westfield Style Tour, and asked her many of the questions that you readers regularly come to me to answer. Why not get a second opinion from an expert?

And this is where the Kool-Aid was gulped happily. Stacy was so gracious and personable, yet just as intense as you would expect. She looked me in the eye the entire time, and you could feel the passion she has for the subject of style for all women. I wanted to head to a bar with her, buy her a glass of wine, and blather on about hemlines and wrap dresses until last call. I wanted to share my experiences of being so many different sizes, that I too channeled Robert Smith in my high school sartorial choices, and where she got her amazing peeptoe booties.

And now onto your burning questions!

How to Dress a Postpartum Body – Stacy London suggests creating a waist where there isn’t one. While an empire waist can hide a soft tummy, creating one just above the belly and lower than an empire waist is more flattering and will look less like maternity clothes. She, like I, believes in the power of a wrap dress, and recommended that a woman NOT hide under fabric – the more you’re wearing, the bigger you look.

How to Dress when Losing Weight – London says it takes time to lose the weight, and you have to put a similar investment and effort into your wardrobe. It’s important to keep up your wardrobe with your body changes, and purchasing transition pieces are worth the investment.

Best Mall Shops for Women who are Petite and Curvy – London recommends Ann Taylor, LOFT, Banana Republic, and NY & Company for petite women who have curves or aren’t a size 2. She believes these brands have pant silhouettes and styles that flatter curvy frames, even if those curves are on a woman below 5’5” She also feels that J. Crew “does everything right.”

Best Mall Shop for Tall Women – Stacy London says NY & Company has a very generous seam allowance in their pants, so if their pant lengths aren’t long enough it’s easy to have a tailor or seamstress let out the pants to the perfect length.

If you are in the DC area, I encourage you to check out the Westfield Style Tour at Montgomery Mall. For those in other parts of the US, check with your local Westfield mall to see if Stacy London and her team of Style for Hire stylists will be visiting. And if you’re looking for some personalized help on how to shop and dress your figure, check out Style for Hire. Like me, you may find yourself guzzling the Stacy London Kool-Aid and loving it!

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My Weekend in Pictures

This weekend recap won’t have as many pictures because I forgot my phone in the car for most of Saturday (but check out a full recap here). However I did capture some other fun things!

Friday I found out Brad Goreski was signing copies of his book, Born to Be Brad: My Life and Style, So Far at the Georgetown Brooks Brothers. Even though I was whining about being tired, I just couldn’t miss this opportunity; once the work day ended I hoofed my way to Georgetown. The line was long, but I met some fabulous women in line and it ended up being worth the wait. Brad Goreski was so utterly charming and sweet – just as he appears to be on his Bravo show It’s a Brad Brad World. Unfortunately the handsome man in the pink tie in the picture above took my picture with Brad, and as you can see even with an Instagram filter, the pic is still blurry and poor Brad’s eyes are closed.  Oh well, it was still wonderful to meet Brad Goreski!  I have yet to read his book, but I flipped through it and love all the personal pictures of him from over the years!

I spent the majority of Saturday at Westfield Montgomery Mall for the Westfield Style Tour, which was a blast. I went with Alison of  DC Celine and her little one; Emerson and her Bean had a blast being girly girls – they curtseyed in their dresses, ooohed and aahed over shoes, and Emerson flirted her way into acquiring a pink balloon tied to a mannequin in Ann Taylor. Emerson also showed her wild no-nap side in a very embarrassing moment. While Alison and her little one were having their photo op with Stacy London, I was trying to capture pictures of the moment. Emerson pulled from me, ran under the rope, and started running circles around Stacy London. I was totally mortified, but Stacy handled it well and I think found it a bit funny. And since I already had my camera out…

Sunday was Cleaning Day in the Gary household. Life has been so frantic the house has really taken a hit. We mopped and scrubbed and vacuumed and even steam cleaned the carpets on the main floor. The weather was amazing so we were able to open all the windows and air out the place, bringing in new energy. Last night we had one of my husband’s childhood friends and his lovely fiancee over for dinner. My husband made ribs, chicken, sweet potatoes and salad; we dined out on the back deck as the sun set and caught up. It was a lovely way to end a busy yet wonderful weekend!

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Friday – Black is my Mood and my Dress

Dress – Mossimo (similar)
Booties - Miss Sixty (similar)
Cuff – Boutique in Rehoboth Beach (similar)

Sometimes, life can be frustrating. Stressful. Craptastic. This morning, I woke up exhausted, congested, and not wanting to face the day. As I flipped through the clothes in my closet, everything seemed too complicated, too cheery for my mood. I muttered, “FML.” Then I regretted it. I could focus on my pounding sinuses and bags under my eyes, or I could focus on the fact that I was tired because I have a job that motivates me, friends and family who enjoy my company, a beautiful house that deserves to be maintained, a body that works hard and rewards me daily, a mind that has mastered the fine art of multitasking.

I may be dressed for a funeral, but inside I am happy. Though really, I am most happy about this being Friday. I am ready for sleeping in past 5am, curling up on the couch watching Bravo and slowly sipping a cup of coffee. Quality time with my friends and family, and a break from the DC Metro. Speaking of the weekend, will you be attending the Westfield Style Tour at Montgomery Mall this weekend? I’ll be there tomorrow with my friend and fellow DC fashion blogger DC Celine and I’ll be sure to report on all I experienced (including what Stacy London is like in person)!

What are your plans this weekend?

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The Westfield Style Lounge Experience

A month ago, I had the opportunity to learn more about the partnership between Stacy London’s Style for Hire company and Westfield Malls. This weekend, I had a chance to see this partnership in action.

Style for Hire has created a pop-up shop in select Westfield malls (right now Westfield Montgomery in Maryland, Westfield Trumbull in Connecticut, and Westfield Garden State in New Jersey though it will eventually be in more locations) called the Westfield Style Lounge. The shop is stocked with fresh fashions from various retailers within the mall and is staffed by a Style for Hire stylist and an assistant. These certified Style for Hire personal stylists offer free 15-minute style consultations to help you shop for a specific event, update your wardrobe for the season, or just offer a fresh eye to your current personal style. The Style for Hire personal stylists do NOT work on commission, so you know you will receive honest feedback and quality suggestions.

This Saturday I had the pleasure to meet with Lisa Tumbarello, Style for Hire personal stylist at the Westfield Montgomery Style Lounge. She walked me through a typical style consultation, and then answered all the questions I had about Style for Hire and the Westfield Style Lounge.

The Westfield Style Lounge Experience
One can either schedule an appointment for the Style Lounge from the Westfield website (preferred method), or if there is availability, can do a walk-in appointment (right now the Style Lounge is only open on weekends at Westfield Montgomery). The consultation begins with a conversation – what are your style needs, what are your favorite parts of your body and what do you see as trouble points, what is your personal style. I really liked that one’s normal personal style is considered as many stylists and fashion books forget this important detail.

Getting my picture taken for my Westfield Style Lounge personalized style prescription

Checking out the selections in the Style Lounge closet

Once the stylist understands you and your fashion needs, she will pull pieces from the style closet. The closet is updated every few weeks with fresh fashion from across the mall. Style for Hire makes sure that the pieces chosen are in-stock at the mall, are versatile yet fit the current trends of the season. When I visited they had a great variety of retailers including Gap, Banana Republic, Sandwich, Michael Kors, White House Black Market and Clarks. Most of the brands the Westfield Style Lounge features have extended sizes (tall, petite, plus), and the stylists know the mall inside and out so can suggest other retailers who will have similar pieces in your specific size.

The Westfield Style Lounge closet

Lisa explaining pattern mixing and shoes that feature style as well as comfort

While the stylist pulls pieces and creates ensembles on the dress form, she gets to know your tastes and educates you on good silhouettes for your body and how to incorporate trends. Lisa pulled a simple white ponte sheath from Banana Republic, mentioned how the seaming would flatter my figure, and paired it with a coral beaded necklace and pair of purple wedge sandals to show how pops of different colors is on-trend and takes the simple dress to another level. She also showed how to mix patterns in a subtle manner that would be wearable even on weekends to the grocery store.

The Westfield Style Lounge app

Entering my fashion choices into the Westfield Style Lounge app

Sample email from the Westfield Style Lounge

When you find pieces you like, the assistant will note them on an iPad. At the end of the consultation, the pieces you liked will be emailed to you or printed out for you on-site. The printout has your stylist’s name and contact information on top; below you will find photos, retailers, and prices of all the items you liked. You can then head to those stores and show the staff your print-out for easy shopping.

If by chance there is not an appointment after yours, you can easily have access to a free Stacy London-trained and certified personal stylist for up to an hour who can even leave the shop and go shopping with you. However, I couldn’t believe how much we were able to accomplish in just 15 minutes. With the Westfield Style Lounge, personal stylists are no longer for the rich and famous. And if you like your consultation at the Westfield Style Lounge, you can book that Style for Hire personal stylist for an additional session. Your personal stylist’s contact will be on the top of your email and printout; you can go to the Style for Hire site to learn the rates for the stylists, times of availability and services offered.

The Westfield Style Lounge is located on the main floor on the Nordstrom wing (right in front of J. Crew). The Lounge will remain in Westfield Montgomery Mall until the first week of July, and will hopefully return come fall. You can learn more about the Trumbull and Garden State Westfield Style Lounges on their websites, and you may see a Style Lounge coming soon to your nearby Westfield mall!

Style For Hire
Lisa made a fantastic point about the price of a personal stylist – we have all purchased that fashion mistake. Maybe it was a suede fringe jacket, or a pair of flatforms, maybe it was a delicate lace blouse when you’re more of a wash-and-wear woman. One session with a personal stylist is about the same price as one fashion mistake, yet it will provide you with ideas and education to be a better shopper, work with what is already in your closet, or dress for a specific event. Style for Hire also offers Shopping Tourism – you and a group of friends can book a stylist to give you a tour of the best boutiques in a city. What an awesome idea for a bachelorette party! Men, don’t feel left out – the Westfield Style Lounge and Style for Hire assists gentlemen with consultations, personal shopping, and closet audits.

Style for Hire personal stylists rage in price from $65 – $250 based on level of experience. All stylists are trained and certified by Stacy London, so you will receive a well-educated stylist and a consistent experience. On the Style for Hire website you can read the bios of the stylists to find one whose personality best fits you. The site also has reviews from previous customers which helps you find the perfect personal stylist.

Lisa Tumbarello works full-time as a personal stylist for Style for Hire, and travels from the Pennsylvania border to Northern Virginia. She works with any budget, and told me she has even taken clients shopping at thrift stores to show them how to buy a quality wardrobe on a budget. I really enjoyed my time with her – she’s extremely warm, personable, and real; I felt I could be honest with her and receive honest feedback in return. If you feel that you could use a little extra assistance with your personal style or shopping for an upcoming event, consider Style for Hire.

Note: I did receive a gift card from Westfield.  However, the decision to write this post and all ideas expressed within are entirely my own.

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Plus Sized Work Attire Options

Dear Allie:
I am getting back into the workforce after five years as a SAHM. I’m really excited, but am having a hard time finding nice work clothes. I am a size 18, 5’5” and an apple and all I seem to find are lowcut dresses and polyester pants. Do you know where I can find suits and work clothes like dresses and blouses for my size?

Why are all plus sized suits made out of polyester? Where can I find a suit that is equal in quality and price to J. Crew but goes above a size 16?

I was recently promoted and my new position requires me to travel on business several times a month. For such trips, I will need to wear a suit while at the office I can usually get away with casual pants or even nice jeans. While I have a great wardrobe of business casual pieces, it is proving difficult to find more corporate of attire for my size (I vary between a 20 and 22). Do you know of any retailers who specialize in suiting and corporate attire for plus-sized women?

Hi Allie, I need to improve my look at work. We’re allowed to wear anything we want but I don’t want to look like a slob any more and think if I look good I may be more likely to get a raise or promotion. I’m 5’7”, a size 20 with a large bust and don’t even know where to start looking for nicer work clothes. HELP!

I am not sure why the world thinks women over a size 12 don’t hold professional jobs. They must think that with the poor selection of career wear for plus-sized women. While quality suits and stylish business casual clothing does exist, it’s hard to find. Below I feature some brands who realize that just because you wear a larger size doesn’t mean you wish to sacrifice style, quality, or professionalism.

If you’re plus sized, I’m sure you already know about Lane Bryant, Avenue, Ashley Stewart, One Stop Plus/Woman Within/Roamans/Jessica London, and other retailers who specialize in plus size fashion. Below are some suggestions on brands I know who aren’t the typical shops, and who provide quality, well-crafted and stylish career wear in plus sizes

Nordstrom
I know, I know, Nordstrom again? Thing is, they offer a great selection of quality brands and style for plus sizes. MICHAEL Michael Kors, Rachel Palley, Calvin Klein, Karen Kane, Eileen Fisher, Tahari Woman, Vince Camuto, Kenneth Cole… all these brands and more are offered in plus sizes at Nordstrom stores and online.

Unlike many other department stores who think a woman in a size 22 dress wants a muumuu or a flowing polyester pantsuit, Nordstrom buyers find brands and pieces that are in the same vein of style as the rest of the store. Great colors, fun silhouettes, lots of options. Nordstrom has free shipping and free returns, will perform alterations onsite, and have personal shoppers that can help you secure a professional wardrobe for your job.

Macy’s
Macy’s is another department store who offers a fantastic selection of brands and styles for plus sizes. Alfani, Calvin Klein, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Jones New York, and then their in-house brand INC International Concepts are great resources for great plus size office wear. Like Nordstrom, Macy’s provides a good amount of real estate in most of their stores for plus-sized fashion.

Macy’s always has promotions for discounts and shipping deals. Macy’s has a great return and exchange policy, where you can return by mail or at any nearby store.

Talbots
Talbots Woman comes in sizes 12-24 regular and 12-22 petite. Each season they offer several styles of suit separates so you can mix and match for the perfect career look. Talbots also specializes in business casual looks, with tailored trousers, well-crafted skirts, polished knits and sweaters and even shoes and accessories.

While many retailers hide their plus size department in a dusty corner or keep it only online, Talbots often has separate stores just for their Woman line, or else it gets plenty of real estate in their mixed-size store. Talbots is phenomenal with customer service, seeking out sizes at other locations, taking returns in-store, and giving you honest feedback and offering suggestions at the fitting room. When I was a size 18, Talbots was my go-to store, where I knew I would find quality, style, and a supportive staff.

Jones New York
While Jones New York is a department store staple, they also have their own online boutique that has a large selection of career wear in extended sizes. Since you have to return by mail (they offer a pre-paid shipping label), it’s good to try out JNY in a store to know how it fits, and then go online to find a larger selection.

Kiyonna
Kiyonna knows how to dress a woman. They make well-made pieces that are stylish and flattering to a plus-sized figure. No muumuus and garish prints here, Kiyonna offers beautiful dresses, and also a beautiful selection of separates. While their bottoms are very basic, they are well-made and classic. Some of their tops can run on the sexy side, but many are great pieces for business casual environments or fabulous shells under suits. Their return policy is pretty standard but I hear their sizing is quite consistent so once you know how you fit in Kiyonna you won’t have to make as many returns and exchanges.

Ann Taylor
If you enter an Ann Taylor store, you may think they don’t care about anyone over a size 12. However online they go up to size 18 and XXL on the majority of their pieces. I also find Ann Taylor runs a bit large and many of my readers have agreed that their size 18 can often fit a size 20 woman.

Ann Taylor regularly has promotions for free shipping and percentages off select items – it’s smart to sign up for their emails or follow them on Facebook or Twitter so you stay updated. Their online selection can sell out pretty quickly when they have such sales, so shop early. While Ann Taylor doesn’t offer free returns, they do accept returns even of larger sizes in any store. And if you have to do a return, check out their sale rack where I have regularly seen larger sizes from other women who have made returns.

Lands’ End
Lands’ End may not be the retailer you would think for career wear, but they do have a pretty great selection of workwear staples. While their summer selection is more geared towards shorts and dresses, they always have a good selection of blazers and coordinating bottoms and come the cooler months have an even greater selection of suiting and work-appropriate pieces.

Lands’ End often has promotions for discounts and free shipping so sign up for their emails to get the latest news. Lands’ End also accepts returns at Sears stores which makes shopping with them even more convenient.

Eddie Bauer
Like Lands’ End, Eddie Bauer mainly focuses on casual weekend fashion. However, like Lands’ End they have a few stand-out pieces each season for career wear. Eddie Bauer often focuses on easy-care pieces, and you’re likely to find wrinkle-free suiting, no-iron button-front shirts, and machine washable trousers and dresses. Eddie Bauer offers free exchanges and accepts returns by mail (they will provide a pre-paid shipping label or you can send by your own method) or in store.

Overstock
I’m quick to head to Overstock to find a toaster oven or an area rug, but I have now learned to go to this site for fashion. Popular brands like Tahari, Kasper, Calvin Klein, and Ann Klein are featured by Overstock, and at nicer prices than at the department store. While some of the styles offered on Overstock are a bit strange, you can also find some gems – often pieces being sold right now at your nearby Belk or Macy’s. Overstock has customer reviews, ridiculously cheap shipping, and a reasonable return policy.

TJ Maxx
While most of my local discount big box retailers will have some plus size fashion, it’s usually a small section, messy, and full of strange pieces I wouldn’t be caught dead in. Not so for TJ Maxx, who usually carries higher-end brands than similar stores, and they usually have a larger and better organized plus size department.


Where do you find stylish and well-made plus size career wear? I’d love to know your suggestions!

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Ask Allie: Finding Personal Style

Dear Alison,
 
I’ve been trying so so so hard to find my own personal style…and it’s not working. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I get dressed in the morning, sometimes several times before I find an outfit that I think works, and feel okay about. And it seems like the second I get to work I feel disgusting and hate what I’m wearing and wish I could go back home and switch into something that would make me comfortable, namely a pair of old jeans and baggy shirt. Is this normal??? I read your blog and several other style blogs every day. I watch What Not to Wear marathons. I see things I like. I try to keep my wardrobe simple, like you suggest. But it has me in tears. I don’t know what to do. I feel like something is wrong with me!

Everyone has days where they feel fantastic in the mirror, but feel disgusting by time they arrive at their destination. Me included. It’s really bad when I think I put together an outfit that feels so awesome, get to work, look at the memory card from my husband’s camera and think, “Why in the world did I allow myself to leave the house in this?” I look awkward, I feel awkward, and I can’t wait to dash home and get into my version of your old jeans and baggy shirt (which is my favorite tee shirt and a pair of lightweight cropped cargo pants from Express circa 1999 – here’s a pic of the winter version with a cardigan). The best thing to do is learn from these days, what I call wardrobe mistakes.

Learning from Wardrobe Mistakes

What made you feel disgusting? Was it the fabric? The print? The silhouette? Was it too fussy? Too boring? Too extreme? I often feel the worst when I wear an outfit that is too… done. Too matchy-matchy, too complicated. Button-down shirts in stiff cotton often make me feel awkward, short flippy skirts make me self-conscious, flats remind me that I have very thick ankles and calves and feel even more short and squat than I already am. While I love blue and it flatters my complexion, I don’t feel as… me in it come mid-day as I do when wearing a warm color.

Take these wardrobe mistakes and use them as lessons on what not to wear, and what not to purchase. Don’t let history repeat itself.

To Thine Own Self Be True

I often feel wrong when I try too hard to embrace current trends. I see another blogger with a similar figure carry off cropped jeans with ballet flats so I try it, wear it, and feel miserable. Every store seems to be selling a certain style of skirt and I buy one to find I wear it only once for feeling so out of my element. It’s hard to know where to draw inspiration, when to embrace a trend, and when to let it pass.

When trying out a new trend or silhouette, I recommend doing it solo. This is not a time for your girl friend’s opinion in the fitting room at Macy’s or the saleswoman’s suggestion at LOFT. Peer pressure can steer you off course and make you spend money you shouldn’t. Hit the restroom, freshen your makeup, get a cold drink and spend time alone in that fitting room. If it’s a crummy, stinky, cramped fitting room get the heck out of there. Try the trend in another shop that has more space, better energy, better lighting. Then if you do indeed like a mullet skirt or cropped boyfriend jeans you can return to the first shop and get the exact style/price you desire. I often shop places with flexible return policies so I can take pieces home, try them with the proper shoes and undergarments and see how they work with what is already in my wardrobe.

Point is, your best friend may tell you that you look great in pink, but you feel like Petunia Pig in the shade. A saleswoman doesn’t know your lifestyle and may suggest a white linen dress when you know it will end up creased and covered in marinara by noon. If a trend, color, silhouette or brand makes you feel wrong, don’t buy it. I really believe it’s better to wear what you own which may not be exciting rather than spend money on clothes you have to force yourself to like or feel right in.

Baby Steps

I adore What Not to Wear and as I mentioned before, I have totally drank the Stacy London Kool-Aid. However, makeover shows and books make one feel she needs to do a complete makeover all in one whirlwind weekend in New York City. Even Stacy and Clinton would agree that such a drastic change is not a good idea. Take baby steps. Assess your current wardrobe – what are the worst offenders or the biggest holes in your closet and tackle those first. Don’t go out and purchase 5 pairs of shorts, instead buy one pair and see how you like them and how the color and silhouette works with your body, your wardrobe, and your personality. Let new pieces marinate in your wardrobe before you bring in new garments. See how they resonate with you, how they improve or don’t improve your personal style. Personal style is a marathon, not a sprint. The reason the personal style of the women on the blog Advanced Style is so awesome is because these women have had a lifetime to hone it!

Seek Professional Help

If you were building a home from scratch, you would consult an architect. If you’re building a wardrobe from scratch, consult a personal stylist. While I try to provide advice, it is very generalized to assist multiple people at once. A personal stylist will come to your home, get to know you as a person, assess what you already own and help you build a strong foundation.

When many think of stylists, they think of Rachel Zoe dressing celebs for awards ceremonies and red carpet events. However, stylists have become more commonplace and have prices that the average person can afford. I wrote about the Westfield Style Lounge and Style for Hire here, and I think they are great services to help everyday women get on the right track. Many of your favorite fashion bloggers are also stylists; see if there’s one in your town you can hire for a closet consult or shopping trip. Many malls and higher-end boutiques will know the names of reputable stylists in your area.

The difference between a stylist and a stylish best friend is that a stylist is trained to not project their tastes on you, and will guide you in the right direction when you feel that everything in your closet should be burned. A personal stylist doesn’t usually work on commission with a store, so he or she will find the stores that fit your body, your budget, and your personality. A personal stylist also knows where to shop in your area, being quite familiar with the merchandise and staff. While a personal stylist may seem like a crazy expense, an hour or two may be all you need to move in the right direction towards finding your personal style and can cost quite less than several wardrobe mistakes.

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

jessica alba tolani scarfTo celebrate me coming back to work and to blogging, I have a great contest for you readers!

One of you can win a Tolani scarf that has been seen on the likes of Jessica Alba (pictured), Sienna Miller, Vanessa Minnillo (pictured), Halle Berry and Mary-Kate Olsen.

The Tolani scarf is courtesy of chickdowntown.com, an awesome site that sells hip women’s designer clothing from the likes of Black Halo, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Vera Wang Lavender Label.

I am so excited, because you KNOW I love scarves, and these beauts from Tolani are fabulous!

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to mywardrobetoday@gmail.com with the word “TOLANI” in the subject.
In the body of the email, please provide your name and mailing address (I promise these addresses will only go to me – except for the winner, and will be deleted once the contest is over). Winner will be chosen by random.

Contest ends Friday, March 20th, 2009 at midnight ET. Winner will be contacted by email. Scarf will be mailed out from chickdowntown.com. Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know chickdowntown.com:
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (twitter.com/chickdowntown)
YouTube (chickdowntownTV.com or youtube.com/chickdowntowntv)

Good luck!

Instead of an Outfit…

Today I’m wearing a pretty cute outfit – a gorgeous jade green drapey jersey top courtesy of Gwynnie Bee (one of their new arrivals), with these jeans from Jag which are utterly brilliant, and my leopard flats. I didn’t take pictures because I decided to use that time to have breakfast with my family. I adore this blog, but am finding it’s taking more and more time and am trying to look for ways to better schedule my time without losing quality (either in life or in blog content).

Speaking of which, I will be having theme days on the blog so you’ll sort of know what to expect. Don’t worry, I won’t be having Wishing for Designer Bags Monday or Instagram Friday, but I will continue to do an Ask Allie every Wednesday that is about pairing and styling clothing, and will continue to have the True Fashionista series each Friday. I’m also toying with having Saturday posts that are more like this – random ramblings and updates that can’t fill an entire blog post on their own. Outfit and advice posts will obviously continue, but I am not going to kill myself to churn them out on a daily basis. Likely they will still be daily, but I am taking off some of the pressure I have placed on myself as of recent.

I finished Stacy London’s book this week and I can’t stress enough how awesome it is. While I feel it’s a bit goofy to have her constantly use trendy phrases like amazeballs, the content is spot-on and really gets to the heart of the matter why many women are in a sartorial rut, fear or hate fashion, and believe style is only possible for the rich and thin. Even if you know your personal style, this book is a great read.

I forgot to mention on here, but I also finished Caitlin Moran’s book, How to Be a Woman. I know she got some justified flack this past weekend on Twitter, but I still think she’s pretty inspiring and her book is a good read. I think if it was 100 pages shorter it would have had more impact, but I think it’s a great memoir about her life and her view on feminism. If you think feminism is passé or a bad word, consider checking this book out and you may change your opinion. I’d call it Feminism Light, which isn’t a bad thing – it actually makes it digestible and clear to those who hear the word and think only of these characters from Portlandia:


I love fashion and beauty, I find it charming when a man holds a door for me, I admire and respect mothers who choose to stay home to raise their children, and I spent much of my pregnancy barefoot in the kitchen (the cold ceramic tile did wonders for PUPPPS), but I am a feminist. And I am betting if you are reading this blog, there’s a feminist inside you too!

I desperately need to get to the salon. I miss my stylist Kathleen desperately, and I am also doing bad things to my hair like dying it at 4am with a box of Natural Instincts that I found in the back of the linen closet and trimming bangs with cuticle scissors. Such antics were fine at 25 but not so cute at 37.

I’m really excited for this Tuesday. My friend Maria, who is also a blogger and PR person is working with DC Wine Week to host Red, Burgundy, and Plum: A Night of Fashion and Wine at Lost Society DC. Open wine bar, yummy food, fashion, and some of the most fabulous people in the city – I can’t wait! I’d love it if you came as well, and considering who is hosting this event I KNOW it’s going to be fabulous!

This weekend is our dear friends’ son’s birthday party and Emerson can NOT wait. Since their son’s birthday is so close to Halloween they make the event a costume party. While she said she wanted to be a “princess witch… or a princess pirate” for Halloween (figure both include a black tutu and a crown and the rest is her imagination and choice between “Yo Ho Ho!” or her crazy “diabolical laugh”) I couldn’t pass up the great deal on a bee costume from Old Navy. On sale and then I had a coupon for an additional 30% off so it ended up being about $10. Emerson is Princess Bumble Bee today and I bet tomorrow as well, and can’t wait to be in full bee regalia Saturday.

So I have dropped Weight Watchers. I never go, and lately my husband has been on a cooking kick, flying through the amazing recipes in this book. We haven’t gone full vegetarian again, but we’re going meatless during the week and cutting down on eggs and dairy. Our goal is to make animal products a treat instead of something we gobble without thought. We’re both finding that our vegan meals are far more filling – we eat half of what we regularly consume and are left sated – no growing tummies, no sluggishness, just not hungry any more. The gym at my new office building opens up next week so I hope to stop by there a couple times a week. I honestly don’t care if I remain this size for the rest of my life, I just want to be healthy and strong and have a good quality of life for as long as possible. I can tell when I have gained and my body just doesn’t perform as well, but I also realize that getting smaller requires a major life change and I am accepting that I just don’t have the time or desire right now for that. Virgin FreeFest reminded me of how strong I was – while I was worn out the day after, I was proud at how I kept going the whole day without being fatigued, in pain, or needing to rest. I love that I can go on a hike for two or more hours with my husband and keep up without pain or stress, and I love that when I am eating healthy real food I sleep better and my skin looks and feels amazing. For me, that means more than the size of my jeans.

A proper post will happen tomorrow, but for today you get my random ramblings. I’d love to hear from you – what book should I read next (just ordered the Beth Ditto memoir, but I usually read two books at a time)? TV season has returned, what show should I add to my DVR? What fun things have you been up to?

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Little Bits of Luxury: Fragrance

When I was in high school, we stayed with my parent’s friends for a night on the way home from a vacation. I don’t remember much about the trip except the downstairs bathroom in their home. For décor, they had a goldfish bowl on the back of the toilet and it was full of perfume samples. I loved that idea, and as soon as I got home, I made it my mission to have something similar. Over 20 years later, I have filled a vase with perfume samples, and am ready to upgrade to a goldfish bowl.

At first, it was all about the look, but as I received perfume samples with orders (I never begged for them from perfume counters, they just came as gifts with purchases or friends would hand me a couple they didn’t want), I started checking them out. See, I used to be a perfume addict.

It started in elementary school with some fragrance I picked up in F&M that had a purple, orange, and pink ombred glass bottle that likely smelled like cotton candy. We went on a school field trip to the Museum of Natural History and the boy I liked told me I smelled good. Oh, the power of fragrance!

Through my school years, there was Benetton Colours, Sunflowers, Escape, Dune, White Musk, and whatever I could afford at the drugstore. Many gave me headaches but I soldiered on, thinking that fragrance was the finishing touch on my personal style. In college I dabbled with patchouli, but stuck mainly with Opium, which I felt was mature and unique and sophisticated. After college I worked for Express (which is the same company at Bath and Body Works and my discount worked there) and then The Body Shop (home of White Musk), so I spent many years smelling like fruit and flowers.

When I left retail, I swore I would never again smell like a Yankee Candle. I started buying fragrances… a lot of fragrances. Chanel N°5 was a classic so I bought it, but then realized I don’t want to smell like my mom (she’s a die-hard Chanel N°5 fan). I tried other Chanel fragrances, the scent with the actress I love in the commercial, the scent that the musician I love says she wears, the fragrance sold by my favorite cosmetics line, the fragrance in that magazine’s gift guide. I loved the look of all the glass bottles on my dressing table, but I ended up being someone who never wore fragrance because I was spending a lot of money and not ending up with anything I liked for more than a week or two (or else I would hug someone and they’d say, “Is that Gucci Envy?” making me realize I smelled like perfume, not me).

So I did what I should have done a long time ago – I started using those little testers I was collecting. Who cared if a couple of the vials were empty or close to it? This gave me a chance to test drive a fragrance without spending more money. And while I was at it, I decided to get rid of all those perfumes. Did you know people will buy partially used bottles of perfume on eBay?

My first bottle of Burberry London on my dressing table in 2006, and my thinning fragrance collection.

And so, I came upon Burberry London. I didn’t like the bottle (who puts beige fabric on a bottle? It gets so grody looking after a few months!), I didn’t like the brand (I’m not plaid and trench coats, this brand doesn’t speak ALISON!), but it was the first perfume that I didn’t tire of, didn’t give me a headache, and didn’t smell like every other woman in the room. When I wore it, I rarely got comments on my fragrance, only when I hugged people, and no one ever asked what I was wearing but just said I smelled good.

For over past eight years, I have worn Burberry London. I stopped for a while once Emerson was born because I feared it would affect breastfeeding, but now it’s part of what Alison Gary smells like. I spritz it three times in the air and walk under it; when I am going out at night I’ll do a fourth spritz and then another spritz on my wrists. The older I get, the more liberal I am with my fragrance, as it has become part of my signature. And since I have one solitary scent, the cost isn’t as bad. And yes, I have purchased unused and tester versions of Burberry London on eBay for a fraction of the retail price (if you try this, go with sellers with great reviews that detail the quality and authenticity of fragrances, often fragrance companies will sell their overstock or extra testers for a nice price).

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My Head is Too Big to be Hipster: A Warby Parker Review

Once I got new glasses, I wanted more. A pair of red frames to channel my inner Sally Jesse Raphael, a funky blue or green pair to jazz up all-black ensembles, a funky shape to show personality at the office. I had heard a lot of great things about Warby Parker and decided to try a pair of frames from them.

Me in my new glasses – Lafont’s Issy & La collection, the frame is called “Gloss”

Warby Parker Eyewear’s mission is to offer reasonably-priced fashionable frames. On top of that, for every pair of Warby Parkers sold, a new pair is given to someone in need. Warby Parker is also proud to be a carbon-neutral company.

Warby Parker has a try-on program where you can pick five frames and try them on at home. They will ship the glasses to you for free and offer free return postage; I decided to take advantage of this program and see if I could find a new pair of signature prescription frames.

The Warby Parker site is very easy to navigate; click on your gender and then whether you desire optical or sunglass frames. From there you can choose material, color, frame shape, and width. From experience, I know my face is pretty wide, so I stuck to the medium and wide styles of frames. Since I already have a pair of tortoiseshell frames, I stuck to more unusual colors.

The glasses arrived quickly in a sturdy shipping box, and then a lovely navy linen box. Each pair of glasses was in its own compartment, wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name. Each pair of Warby Parker frames has the brand and style name inside on the temple. I found the quality to be stellar, especially for the price. These frames rival the more expensive designer styles I tried at my nearby glasses shop. The return process is simple – peel off the self-adhesive UPS label and drop it in a nearby UPS drop box. I couldn’t be more impressed with Warby Parker and their process… except that my face is too big for them.

Maybe I should have tried men’s frames, but I felt that almost every pair I tried (except for the Bensen, and they just weren’t a style I was looking for) was just a hair too small for my face. I often have this issue not just with glasses, but sunglasses as well. In fact, when I got my new glasses, they were the only ones I liked after trying on about 20 pairs – each other pair seemed just a bit too small for my face shape, even some of the men’s frames I tried.

So if you have a normal to small-sized noggin, I encourage you to try Warby Parker. The Warby Parker at-home program is completely free so you have nothing to risk; if you find a pair you like you can feel good that not only will you look great, but your purchase will also be doing good. As for me, I will have to look elsewhere, my head is just too big to be hipster.

Note: Warby Parker has no idea I am doing this review and I was not compensated in any way for it.  I just decided to try the brand and share my experience with you!

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Saturday

In the morning, I ran to get my hair cut and colored in the nearby town, and then run a few errands. Olive ribbed tank from J. Crew, white ribbed tank from Old Navy, Joe’s Jeans in “Provacateur,” brown stacked flops from J. Crew, silver hoops from The Icing, silver cuff.

Hair was brushed out but on the second day; blew the bangs straight.

Makeup was Body Shop bronzing powder in Light as face color, Max Factor Lash Perfection mascara on curled lashes, Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow.

Kathleen did her magic – all I told her is that I wanted to go darker and that I wanted heavier bangs. I trust her, and was not disappointed. Choppy layers that can work straight, wavy or curly, fun sideswept bangs, and a very rich multi-tonal color of dark brown that looks closer to what I was born with.

Got home and had to dash to get dressed. Friday night I had a friend over so I didn’t have time to play dress-up and figure out my theater outfit. Thank you soooo much to everyone who wrote in suggestions, you guys are awesome and have good ideas! For the one who suggested my Old Navy dress… I completely forgot about it. I had set to wear my black cashmere tank from Banana Republic and my orange-red shantung full skirt also from Banana (seen here), but when I saw how spiffy and sleek my husband looked (flat front gray tropical wool trousers from J. Crew, white tailored shirt from some brand sold at Mens Wearhouse, black blazer from… J. crew? Not sure…, black slip-on sleek shoes from Ecco) I decided my outfit may look a bit like a costume. I tried a few different skirts, but settled on the black matte jersey dress from Old Navy, my red stone necklace, my leopard peep-toe heels from BCBgirls,silver hoops from The Icing, and silver cuff natch. :-)

Didn’t have to do my hair since it was done by Kathleen my talented stylist. She used the Pureology line on me, and swears by it for protecting color. I bought the shampoo and conditioner and once I can wash my hair (was told to go as long as humanely possible without washing) I will be using it and let you k now how it is.

Same makeup as earlier, just a re-touch of the bronzing powder, a bit of Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint on my cheekbones, a medium line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line, a quick swipe of Maybelline Great Lash waterproof mascara in black over existing mascara, Body Shop Lip and Cheek Tint with Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow over it.

We took the Metro and it was not even a block to the little restaurant (I don’t know if there are even 20 tables in the place). The menu seemed different from the one online and the only entrees that were vegetarian were spaghetti with tomato sauce (yawn) and a risotto with corn and truffle shavings. My husband and I chose the risotto, we shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio (not sure the label, our friend chose the wine) and had a nice, yet not inspiring or overwhelmingly unique meal. We then walked not even three blacks to the Kennedy Center where my friend and I sidestepped grates in our heels (she too wore a black sheath and heels) while the men tromped over everything and got there in time to marvel at the acre-sized curtains in the lobby and get a cocktail in the Terrace Bar prior to the performance.

The performance was great! As I said, I had never seen The Phantom of the Opera other than the movie. Back story – 1992, for Christmas I got my first boom box with a CD player in it, and with it two CDs – Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. For several months until I got my high school arsenal of REM, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I listened solely to these two soundtracks. Come 2007, I am silently singing along to this performance and even a tear came down my cheek at finally seeing live what I had in my head 15 years ago. I think also seeing Shakespeare in Love the night prior made the theater experience that more intense.

Our friends live in Virginia and parked at the theater; it was a gorgeous night and declined their offer to drive us to the Metro and decided to hoof it. All in all a lovely evening!

Tuesday’s Tip – Making the Clearance Rack Your Friend

When I go into a store, the first place I look is the clearance or sale rack. I don’t want to be tempted by full priced items when a good equivalent is available at half the price in the back of the store. Even when planning my wedding I first scored sample sales and discount bridal shops before even looking at a single full-priced gown. It is better to buy quality instead of quantity, but just because it’s on a sale rack does not mean it’s poor quality or lacking style or fashion.


Take Your Time
Clearance racks are a mess. Why waste good salespeople hours in cleaning up the back of the store when the real money making is in the front displays of new product? Because of this, do not limit your search to the section designated with your size. Take the time to flip through all the racks. You may find a size 10 amongst the size 2s or a great size Small blouse hidden amongst size 14 blazers. Grab everything that even remotely appeals to you, and a few things you would not usually consider. The best way to spend money on trendy pieces and unusual finds is to pay for them at a discount – less buyer’s remorse.


Sizes Can Be Deceiving
Sometimes items are on sale racks because they are missized. I have tried on size 6 jackets that are too big for me and size 14s that are skin tight. Don’t just look at the label – pull the item from the rack and see if it may possibly fit. Often the missized items are at a super reduced price because they are being looked over.


Consider a Tailor
I decided to write this post because of my clearance rack prize of yesterday. Sueded cotton trench, hip cut, gorgeous color, originally $179 on sale for $29.99. No obvious flaws but the coat was too large for me – I am petite and it is not. It is an XL and a generous cut, I am not. I bought the awesome bargain after trying it on and seeing that the shoulders were fitting decently, though the sleeves were past my fingers, the waist was too big and the length too long. I took it to my local dry cleaner and for $35 she is shortening the arms and hem and nipping in the waist. So for $65 I got a $179 jacket that is perfect for the upcoming fall.


Sleeves that are too long, hems dragging on the ground, gaping waists and baggy jackets can all be easily fixed by a neighborhood tailor or dry cleaner. They can also replace missing buttons, broken zippers and some torn seams. If the price is right, often the tailoring still keeps the garment at a discounted price. I have bought suiting pants 75% off just because the zipper is broken, a suede blazer at 80% off because the lining had pulled away from the jacket body.


Do not invest in garments that are stained (salespeople usually try to remove the stains with a cleaning fluid, if it’s still stained it probably won’t come out in the wash or at the cleaners), torn (resewing a seam may make the item fit differently), irregular (remember quality is key – no one should be wearing a sweater with two different sleeve lengths) overly large (tailor costs will be insane and the true look of the garment will be lost) or too small (don’t buy for the body you hope to have, buy for the current you. Also tailors can’t make things larger – there’s usually not enough fabric at the seams and if they attempt the fit of the garment will be compromised).


If You Don’t Love It…
Don’t buy it. Would you buy it if it were full price? If the answer is a quick “no” leave the item in the fitting room. Just because an item is cheap does not mean you can scrimp on cut, style or fit. A 50% markdown does not justify a gaping armhole, an unflattering color or even a staple that you really have enough of already. The world sees you and your outfit, not the reduced price. They don’t know if what you bought cost $200 or $20, they just know it doesn’t look good, doesn’t flatter your body or your personality. Every dollar in your wallet is precious, don’t waste it on crap. If you can’t imagine the item with at least two other things in your closet, it’s not worth your time or money.

My Wardrobe Today – Thursday

Black 3/4 sleeve sheath – Mossimo for Target (no longer available)
Black crocheted tights – c/o Coccolare Boutique
Blue suede heelsJessica Simpson “Evoni”
Silver cuff

I am such a chicken when it comes to hosiery.  I stick to what I know – opaque black tights.  I have a pair of dark gray ones, but I usually last-minute switch them out for black because I think black looks better on me. I like to accentuate the positive, minimize the negative and I know I have very large legs and ankles and feel that creative hosiery accentuates that.  However Coccolare Boutique, DWJ from The Art of Accessories, and Wendy Brandes forced me out of my hosiery box.

Coccolare Boutique contacted me, asking me if I would like to check out some of their luxury Italian hosiery.  I visited their site, saw some gorgeous legwear, but was terrified to try anything other than black tights.  I took a deep breath and decided to try a couple styles, including the Sebille Crochet Sweater Tights.  They arrived and looked more amazing than on the site – so soft, well-made, fit like a dream.  I tried them on with a few things in my wardrobe and everything felt wrong to me.  I felt as though it looked like HELLO LEGS!

Wendy Brandes has been showcasing fashion bloggers who rock the red leg – red tights or trousers.  I was chatting with Wendy and DWJ on Twitter this week about how I love the look of a red leg, but personally don’t think I can rock it.  Last night leaving work, I bumped into DWJ.  She admitted she stopped by Ann Taylor because of my recent posts about my great scores there.  We got to discussing my fear of creative hosiery and she really encouraged me to take the leap.  I hopped on the train, thinking about how I could really get a great look with my newly acquired crocheted tights from Coccolare.

Got home and found these shoes waiting for me.  I had seen them online in red and loved them; I know Jessica Simpson shoes fit me pretty well and are consistent with sizing so I decided to check on eBay and see if I could find the same pair for less.  I couldn’t find red but was excited to find them in this amazingly bright cobalt suede.  They were retailing online for up to $100, I got them for over 60% off, new and in original box (still wrapped up in original tissue and such).  Gotta love eBay (also yesterday got new, still wrapped bottle of Burberry London from an eBay seller at 1/3 the retail price)!

These shoes were BEGGING to be worn ASAP.  I tried them on with yesterday’s tights and liked the look of them with hosiery.  As that I am down to only one pair of black tights, it meant that to wear the new shoes, I would have to wear them with my Sebille Crochet Sweater Tights.  I decided with such an intense shoe and attention-grabbing tights, I had to keep it uber-simple on top.  I swear, I think this is the first time in the 21st Century that I have worn any hosiery that wasn’t opaque and black (or nearly black).  So what do you think of my first foray into creative hosiery?

And if you too would like a pair of luxe Italian hosiery at lovely prices, check out Coccolare Boutique.  If you join their fan club, you can get 20% off your purchase with the code “WARDROBE.”

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What I Wore: Old School Allie

wardrobe oxygen what I wore Red Fossil Leather Erin Satchel wardrobe oxygen what i wore fossil red leather bag wardrobe oxygen what I wore ann taylor stripe tee loft pants fossil bag
Tee: Ann Taylor | Pants: LOFT | Scarf: Liberty London (similar) | Bag: c/o Fossil (similar) | Watch: Citizen | Bracelets: Nordstrom, Rebecca Minkoff (similar) | Shoes: Cole Haan (similar)

I wore this outfit last week to work and I felt very Classic Allie. My sister bought me this scarf a few years ago when she visited London and I love pairing it with stripes. And well, we all know I love stripes! I put away laundry this weekend and was floored how I have a drawer of almost all striped tees, but I wear them all and they all have different purposes, fits, and colors. This one I recently picked up at Ann Taylor; I like the notched hem and leather elbow patches which makes it look a bit more polished than a traditional tee, and I liked the sale price!

Random thoughts on a Tuesday…

I wear Burberry London as my signature fragrance. It is the first time I have had a “signature fragrance,” for most fragrances drive me insane or make me sneeze after a few weeks.

Because of this, a good third of my bureau is decorated with various perfume bottles. I just can’t rid of them because they are pretty.

I forgot to wear my wedding set yesterday… and today. I took them off after the beach because I was feeling stiff and sunburned and swollen from salt and heat and vodka tonics. I must remember to put them back on today.

I never take off my wedding set, not even for a shower or swim in the ocean. I only take them off when we are at a Bailey Banks and Biddle to have them cleaned. I’ve been married three years, I don’t clean them that often any more. It’s about the sentiment, not the shine.

Last night I was at Annapolis Mall with my husband and we walked past Bailey Banks and Biddle and he asked if I wanted to go in and have my ring cleaned. He wasn’t happy to find out I didn’t have it on and had it sitting on my nightstand for 24 hours. He said the dog could eat it. I wouldn’t put it past my dog; he has eaten stranger things in the past.

At Annapolis Mall I found out I am old. I mean, I know I am getting older and this weekend my friends and I cried this statement a few times when we saw ridiculous young peep fashion and actions, but the mall made me feel truly aged. As you know I write about clothing here and on my other blog, but I like to think that I write more about style than fashion. There is a difference between the two, and there is a difference between fashion and trends as well. I looked at what was an attempt at fashion, and what was hot and trendy now and it made my head hurt. Jeans so bedazzled on the pockets, I wonder how people sit. Candy colored hi-top sneaks for men, tops that would hardly cover an areola, multiple layers of knits all cinched up with a faux pleather belt… the styles in the store windows were hideous and I knew I must be old if I was shuddering in front of each wall of plate glass. I felt like a senior citizen. Granted, I am a well-dressed senior citizen that got three compliments from strangers for my choice of shoe and a good looking man my junior looked me up and down in a way that made me feel a bit violated and a bit vindicated.

My husband noted that those who live in Annapolis LOOK as though they live in Annapolis. We were trying to break down the exact look and this was out list on the restaurant napkin:

  • Weathered skin – not just tan, but with freckles, creases and a bit of a leathery texture even on teens
  • Very casual hair – low ponytails and straight bangs on women of a certain age, curly mops on men of all ages, tangled long sun-streaked tresses on younger ladies.
  • Very expensive purses with plenty of hardware, or else Very Bradley satchels
  • Very old bottoms, be it cargo shorts, jeans, a chino skirt. Obviously well made to withstand salt and sand and sun and many trips through the washer.
  • No bright colors past lime, pink or coral. Maybe a wild French blue but never Crayola red or emerald green and gosh forbid if you tried to wear bright orange outside of a life jacket.
  • Very comfortable shoes. Flops, slides, sandals, boat shoes. Usually as weathered but well-made as the owner’s shorts or skirt.
  • Minimal makeup on the women – mascara, a touch of tinted lip balm, sometimes a smudge of eyeliner but that is it.
  • An obvious piece of expensive jewelry. It may be large diamond studs, a strand of real pearls, a right-hand diamond ring, or maybe a Tiffany bracelet for the teens.

I said I felt very Annapolis in my black top, white trousers and turquoise necklace. For once I too had the minimal hair and makeup.

My husband then reminded me that I was wearing the leopard-print stilettos that were complimented three times by strangers. Oh well, still have a bit of DC in me, even if I desire to be more Naptown.

I love great shoes. You can wear the most basic things, and your shoes will always take center stage. It is far easier to get away at work with crazy shoes than crazy makeup or crazy dresses.

I am allergic to blue cheese, but I asked for gorgonzola on my salad last night. How can you have field greens, champagne vinaigrette, pears and walnuts without it?

I hate admitting when I am disappointed to a nice waitress. The kitchen brought out our entrees before our appetizer, didn’t bring bread until our second request and never brought my lemon for my water so I had to steal my husband’s off his iced tea. Oh, and the chips with the spinach artichoke dip were stale as all heck, hence the need for the bread. But she was so darn cute and sweet I couldn’t complain.

I don’t think my husband could either, he felt guilty and left 20% tip.

Today he is sending a letter to Nordstrom to compliment them on our salesperson last night. I bought my husband some of those slip-on dress shoes (not traditional loafers, more sleek) a year or so ago and last week the seam busted out at the sole. We took them back to Nordstrom sans receipt in hopes they could fix them. They could not, so they offered to give us a replacement pair if I could guess the price. The same brand in a slightly different version were $130 so I said $130. He entered $150 into the register so we got a $180 pair of shoes for $30 plus tax. I felt bad because he spent a long time with us to have such a meager sale and like the waitress, for some reason we felt bad for doing what customers do and expecting those in the service industry to do their job, so we are writing a thank you letter.

People should write more thank you letters. Nothing makes a person’s day more than having nice sentiments on paper.

I have all my thank you notes and customer comment cards from my retail days saved in a binder in clear pages. I like to look at it when I feel like a loser.

I also save all the sweet compliments and thank you emails I get from readers in my inbox so I can be reminded of why I write and that I am not invisible in this world.

Speaking of which, someone walked by my cube and complimented me on my perfume. I smiled and said “it’s Burberry London” when asked the brand. “I guess you could say it’s my signature fragrance.”

Then I thought, “oh crap, they can smell my perfume from outside my cube? That’s not a signature, that’s a billboard!”

I promptly licked and rubbed together my wrists in an attempt to wear away some scent. Burberry London may smell nice, but it doesn’t taste nice.

Review – Hobo International Sample Sale

It’s great living in the DC area – access to amazing FREE museums, living within an hour of three major airports, one of the best concert venues in the country (I love you 9:30 Club!), all the convenience and options of a major city, yet close proximity to the ocean, the bay, wineries, and farmland.

However as a blogger, I sometimes feel left out when I get all these emails from PR folks telling me about great sample sales taking place in New York, London, and Los Angeles. What about DC? Where’s OUR sample sales?

Well Hobo International is based out of Annapolis, Maryland and I found out they had a sample sale this past weekend. Score! I adore Hobo bags – they are stylish without being trendy, well made, and fit my personal sense of style. I follow Hobo on Twitter and the week prior to their sample sale they had a Twitter contest where a few followers could win 50% off their entire purchase at the sale. And moi? Winner winner chicken dinner!

Annapolis isn’t too far from where I live – I actually passed my “bachelorette pad” on the way (lived in Annapolis prior to moving in with my husband). My mom, Emerson, and I arrived about 20 minutes prior to them opening the doors for the sale and there was a good dozen of folks ahead of me. These were serious shoppers – women in sneakers, sans purses and handbags, ready to shop. I probably would have been better off without a toddler in tow, but I didn’t have anyone to watch her and Emerson is pretty chill in chaotic situations and don’t mind crowds.

The sale was well managed – many Hobo International staff on hand to pass out shopping baskets, answer questions – one even offered to watch Emerson so I could shop! Instead, my mom and I took turns – one would watch Emerson while the other would do a mad dash around the sale, toss things in the basket. We would switch, and then while watching Emerson, could look through what we picked up, decide if it was purchase-worthy and put back that which we decided against keeping.

After about 30 minutes (time flies when you’re running around like a mad woman, surrounded by leather goods and other mad women!) we were DONE. Emerson had been fantastic but was starting to whine and I didn’t want to torture her any longer. We had collected a nice haul and felt accomplished so my mom took E to the car and I headed to the register.

And now on to the most important thing – my haul:

Emerson likes the pretty pink belt

- The Libby in Pumpkin
- The Penelope in Maroon
- The Bartola in Stone
- The Sadie wallet in hot pink patent
- The Valentina clutch in cobalt patent
- A belt that perfectly matches the Penelope (same leather and same hardware)
- A skinny hot pink patent belt (not on site)
- A skinny mint green leather belt (not on site)

My mom got a handbag, a belt, a wallet, and a little business-card holder/keyring combo thingie. Our purchases combined came to just over $200! How utterly insane is that? Seriously folks, if you live in the Annapolis area, this sale IS worth attending. Some items were previous seasons, but you can see three bags I got (and possibly my mom’s – can’t recall the style) are current colors and styles on sale on the Hobo International site.

As soon as I got home, I switched all my purse essentials over to the Penelope – here you can see how much this bag holds – a full-size book (which I will be reviewing soon), my “Diane” wallet from Hobo, sunglasses, camera, SmartPhone, engagement calendar, cosmetics bag and more!

Keep tabs on Hobo International via Facebook or Twitter and you will know when their next sale will take place!

P.S. I met a blog reader at the sale!  So hectic, no chance to really talk.  However it was great to meet you! :)



Note: Everything written in this post is my own opinion – I did not receive compensation to write about Hobo International, and was not asked by them to write. I attended this sale purely as a customer and paid for everything I received at the sale.

Seasonless Black Trousers

A pair of black trousers in a seasonless fabric is a necessity to any woman’s wardrobe. What deems a fabric “seasonless?” This means the pants are not wool, they are not cotton. They are most likely a blend of fabrics, usually a good portion synthetic. Ann Taylor has a seasonless fabric they call Triacetate. Express’ seasonless fabric is called Microtwill. J.Crew (and many other brands) calls their version Gabardine. All different fabrics, all seasonless. Maintains it’s shape, often has a bit of stretch, has a slight texture or sheen (great for dressing up and dressing down!), and sort of blends into the background. Not only should these tousers be seasonless, they should be eventless (if that is a word). You want trousers that can go from work to a happy hour to a cocktail party to an interview, to a night club. What cut achieves this? A bootcut leg, not tight, but not Palazzo pants (those pants that look like a skirt on each leg). A tab waist if often a good choice. You never need to worry about a belt, it lies flat under fitted, untucked shirts, yet looks smart with a tucked in oxford. Due to a tab-wait trouser having a wider waistband, it is less likely to cut into the torso, creating a spare tire above the waistline. Very flattering on women with hips, bellies, rears, or straight shapes.

These trousers should not have front pockets. I do not care what your body shape is, front pockets ruin a smooth line and make trousers look more casual and less versatile. These pockets often bow out, wrinkle under the tousers, and look messy. They can make Kate Moss look like Kathy Bates. Back pockets are okay, as long as they are small besom pockets, and not patch pockets (again, detroy the versatility and make the trouser more dated and casual).

Examples of good trousers:

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Yes, I said these trousers should be black, but I chose a lighter color so you could see the detail. The bootcut leg adds a modern look to the pant, elongates and slims the leg. This is an example of a tab waist. See how it is a wider waistband, less likely to cut into the middle. The lack of pleats, seaming and pockets in the front minimizes a belly and gives a smooth line. The strong crease down the front elongates the leg and gives a long, lean look. See how you could see these pants with an oxford and matching blazer with pumps for work, a beaded camisole and pointy toed heels for a night club, a cotton v-neck sweater sweater and some boots for a jaunt to the mall. These pants are from Ann Taylor, and are a cotton/rayon/spandex blend (rayon gives it the seasonless fabric, strech gives it the smooth fit wear after wear).

Here is a great example from Lane Bryant:

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These pants are a seasonless nylon/rayon/spandex blend. They are cut just below the waist (reduces the look of tummy bulge), have a bootcut leg, and smooth lower torso. These pants would look great with strappy heels, a beaded shell and matching jacket for a cocktail party, or a merino turtleneck and some crocodile pointy boots for lunch with the girls. At the time of writing this, these trousers are on sale for $20, regularly $45. You really can find stylish classic pieces for a steal at your local mall. I cannot stress this point enough.

The point is that with the right black trousers, you can dress for almost any event. I have black trousers I purchased five years ago, and still wear weekly. They do not have to cost a lot, most of the trousers I buy on sale and get for less than $50.00. Do keep in mind that though a bargain is always great, black trousers is one thing you do not want to look cheap. They will be worn more than most anything else in your wardrobe, so don’t settle for a chintzy fabric with a cheap sheen, a pair that wrinkles easily, isn’t lined, isn’t the right length, the right cut, the right anything. I do believe in buying in bulk. If you find the trousers of your dreams, you may wish to invest in a second pair in black, and possibly a third pair in another versatile color (gray, brown, tan, white). Consider this especially if you buy the matching suit jacket. I purchased a pair of amazing trousers and the matching jacket at Ann Taylor four years ago. I often wore the trousers without the jacket. One day my dog jumped up to greet me as I returned home from work, his claw got caught in the fabric and ended up snagging and tearing the thigh of these coveted trousers. Ann Taylor no longer makes pieces in this same fabric, so I have a lovely well-fitting jacket and no trousers to match. Since then, I always buy two pairs of pants for every suit jacket, allowing one pair for every day wear, and one pair to preserve to wear with the jacket or for special occasions.

As for care of these pants. I will let you know ahead of time that often these pants say “Dry Clean Only.” I DESPISE spending money on dry cleaning. I end up taking my clothes to the cleaners and forget to pick them up for two weeks. Most of the knits and sweaters I purchase I ignore this “Dry Clean Only” label and wash in Woolite on the gentle cycle of my machine and hang to dry. I have tried this with trousers, and rarely have had good luck. They end up wrinkled, losing that nice front crease and long line. They look cheaper, they often get tighter, the legs shorter (often leaving the lining the same length, which is NOT a good look!), the threads weaken, leaving the potential for an embarrassment the next time you sit down. I have a stain remover I actually purchased in the lingerie department of a department store. I spot treat with that or a Shout! Wipe (always have 5 or 6 in my purse – available at your grocery store in the detergent aisle) and then take them to the local discount dry cleaners. Every so often, they get a better cleaning at the higher end dry cleaners. This may seem like a pain, especially if you have children, a busy schedule, a tight budget. I must tell you this is an investment. If you take care of your clothes correctly, they will take care of you in return, looking gorgeous and lasting for years. Though it may be more appealing to buy all clothing that can take a tumble in the washer and dryer, you lose that polished look, that classic look, the look that shows you care what you look like and others should as well. If you can’t go beyond Tumble Dry Low, you will have a hard time following the closet rules of this book.

Ask Allie: Fashion Advice for a Petite SAHM

Dear Allie,
I am currently rocking the awful “mom” look aka yoga pants and huge t-shirts and I am so over it! Could you direct me to a few classic pieces to start my wardrobe? I am a stay at home mom with two under two, so I need a practical look. I live in Ohio where the weather is always changing. I am very petite (5’ and less than 100 lbs). I also have trouble finding comfortable shoes that look stylish and fit my size 5 feet. Any advice?
- Megan

Dear Megan,
I am so glad you realize that one can be an active mom while maintaining style. I recently wrote an article on Savings.com about new mom fashion, but will offer some basics that should get you on track without looking like a mom, or like a college student:

Dark Straight Jeans
A dark straight jean is classic, can be worn any season of the year, looks more polished than lighter washes, and doesn’t need a fancy label to look chic. Having a straight leg means this jean should work with most any length or style of top in your wardrobe – simple tanks and tees, longer tunics, blazers and cardigans, blouses tucked in or left untucked. Add a bit of spandex so that you won’t be showing your undergarments or cutting into your stomach when crawling on the floor after your little one.

The Lee Slender Secret 5-pocket Jean is a classic style that is great for women who may have a bit of that baby pooch still left. Oprah recently rated them as a top jean, and reviews state that these jeans in petite are not needing of hemming for those who are 5’ tall. $29.99



Levi’s 512 jean is a straight, classic style that is made for a woman’s shape. Their Perfectly Slimming 512 Jean has the Lycra to keep your body looking smooth, and giving you the flexibility you need to keep up with your children. Again, this jean is rated great for the really petite woman – they run short so you won’t have to spend an arm and a leg on alterations. $40.00

A Versatile Trench
When the weather is chilly one day, hot the next, and rainy the third it’s hard to be prepared. A simple trench or mac in a water-resistant fabric that is lined will keep you looking stylish yet comfortable on those in-between days.

The Sunshower Coat from Lands End is a favorite – it’s a classic style, breathable, and wrinkle-resistant. Lands End is known for their quality and service so you know you will get a great piece that will give you years of wear. Khaki is a safe bet, but a more memorable color like their Wine Grape will look great with neutrals, make your skin glow, and will give you a sunnier outlook on the day, even if the sky is cloudy. $99.50

Macy’s Style&Co brand offers great style for a reasonable price. This double-breasted trench has a shorter length that won’t dwarf your petite frame, and the soft sage color will look great with neutrals, but be a fresh change from beige and black outerwear. $79.00

Solid-colored Seasonally-appropriate Tops
Toss the oversized tees and stiff striped button-downs. It’s easy to be comfortable, get dressed in an instant yet look great if you have an arsenal of flattering, well-fitting knits in your size and colors you adore. Wash on the gentle cycle, line dry and these pieces can give you years of great wear. Look for pieces with 5% spandex or more – they will be more likely to keep their shape, not need to be ironed, and maintain their color longer than 100% cotton tops. For winter, I love merino wool because it acts like a knit in keeping its shape and flattering the figure, and can also be washed on the gentle cycle.

Ann Taylor LOFT is a fave of many petite women thanks to their extensive collection, reasonable prices, and truly petite sizing. Their Petite Twisted Boatneck Tee is a fashionable version of the comfy tee shirt. The neckline adds drama to a casual day look, and would fantastic under a cardigan or casual twill blazer. Great colors like Balsam Green and Ocean Depths will complement dark denim, khaki, white, gray, and black. $19.50

I love Nordstrom’s Caslon line – great wardrobe basics of great quality. The petite Caslon Ballet Neck Tee is a feminine and flattering twist on a simple knit top – the ¾ sleeves make it wearable almost year-round and a scoop neck is lovely on most every woman’s figure. $24.00

A Casual Blazer
A great way to jazz up simple tees and jeans is with a casual blazer. If it’s unlined and has a bit of stretch, it’s as comfortable as a hoodie but with far more polish.



Ann Taylor LOFT’s Petite Urban Twill Blazer is a great choice. The grosgrain trim gives it a unique, higher-end look, and in navy it would go with most any color tank or tee in your closet. $69.99

The striped blazer from Banana Republic would look amazing with neutral tanks, tees, and bottoms. It would also look quite chic with a pop of color underneath – try candy pink, blood orange, or apple green. The standup collar elongates the frame, making you look taller. $149.99

A Trendy Knit
Right now, striped tees are a hot look – this is a great way to add some variety and current fashion to your wardrobe without looking passé in a season. Striped tees look great with a simple denim or twill skirt, under a blazer, with shorts, capris, jeans, and even dressed up with a fuller skirt or with trousers. Add a bit of contrast with a turquoise or coral necklace, or a cardigan in a color like leaf green, tangerine, or yellow.

This black and cream striped boatneck from Lauren by Ralph Lauren isn’t your ordinary tee shirt – the silver buttons and boatneck make it a refined piece that would look great with jeans, and also with a white twill skirt for spring outings. $59.50



I own the Striped Sailor Tee from Ann Taylor and adore it – the scoopneck is flattering, the knit heavy and durable, the epaulets give a bit more style and panache. It comes in three colors. $38.00

A Not-so Little Black Dress
I have a black wrap dress from Old Navy that I bought years ago on clearance. I wear it with leggings and flats around the house, with heels for a wedding or funeral, with tall boots to work. It’s so versatile, and the matte jersey is a fabric that stretches, gives, washes easily, and looks timeless and seasonless.

The Petite Gemma Wrap dress from Banana Republic is a great choice – ¾ sleeves work year round, and a true wrap style means you can cinch the waist for a more custom fit. $98.00



Merona for Target has really come a long way in the past year – the quality has improved immensely, and the style is quite on-trend yet classic. The Merona Petite Faux Wrap Knit Dress is a great choice – the empire waist hides any post-baby pooch, and makes it dress up or down with ease. $20.98

Shoes
It often impossible to find size 5 footwear in stores, however the selection is pretty impressive online. Sites like Nordstrom and Zappos have a great selection of smaller sizes that are still stylish and comfortable. I recommend investing in:

  • A sandal with a low wedge heel (more comfortable than heels, able to wear with shorts or with a dress).  The “Amber” wedge-heel sandals from Munro is a great summer choice – uber comfortable, thin elegant straps, will look great with skirts and dresses of all lengths, as well as shorts, trousers, and cropped pants. Munro is known for comfort and quality – these shoes should be wearable even for a day of sightseeing or a trip to Disney World. $179.95
  • A pair of ankle boots you can slip on with jeans and a sweater (low heel, brown or black depending on your wardrobe – more versatile than flats as that they can dress up and also be waterproofed for rainy days).  The “Wisteria” by Merrell has a wedge heel which is comfortable when standing or walking for a long period of time, but can still be paired with casual trousers. They get great reviews for comfort. $140.00
  • A pair of tall riding boots (wear with dresses, over jeans and you will be amazed how they will transform wardrobe basics into something stylish – waterproof them for more versatility).  These riding boots from La Canadiene are so classic – waterproof Italian leather, moisture-wicking lining, memory foam insole, low heel, elegant styling. These are boots you buy now and will still be wearing a decade from now. $256.00
  • A pair of simple black leather pumps for those times when you do need to dress up (they work with pants, dresses, and even with your dark jeans for a Date Night or drinks with your girl friends).  The Nuncio pump from Nine West is a classic pump that will look elegant year-round and years from now. 2.5” heel, elongated toe, and available in narrow and wide widths. $69.95

For additional petite inspiration, check out:

How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

The best accessory I acquired in the past decade was getting out of credit card debt.

My Experience:
When I worked in retail, I found it far too easy to shop. I was spending at least 45, usually closer to 65 hours a week at a mall. Lunch hours were spent strolling through other shops, sipping on an overpriced coffee drink, or treating myself to a very nice lunch at a nearby restaurant. As a personal shopper and visual merchandiser, I felt I had to be a perfect example of style and current fashion and made sure to have the latest shoes, makeup, accessories and always a perfect professional manicure, pedicure, haircut and highlights. When our shop was thisclose to making the day’s sales goal, they could always count on me to purchase something from the new line to get us over the hump.

When I left working at Express, they gave me my associate purchase logs. In one year, after my employee discounts, I had purchased $7,000.00 worth of their clothing. When I maxed out my Express card, I opened a Structure card and used that (hey it was the late ‘90s/early ‘00s when Structure still existed). When I maxed that out, I found out that I could use my Limited or Victoria’s Secret cards and shop at Express. I won’t even go into details about the major credit cards I used for salon treatments, binges at Sephora or Nordstrom, and many a steak salad at the Nordstrom Café.

As women, we are constantly attacked by media telling us to spend, spend, spend. The dress that will get you the guy. The moisturizer that will make you look ten years younger. The bag you must have this season. The five or ten or hundred items every woman must have in her wardrobe. And then of course, the purchases you need so that you can be as lovely as Anne or Mila or Kate. Magazines like Lucky are completely geared towards assisting women on shopping, while glossies such as Vogue and W bring couture to Middle America, encouraging everyone to feel that they too need a fancy label on their dress to be special.

As you know, I love fashion. I love clothing. I find it to be a great way to express your personality, your individuality, your passions. Fashion can also help you feel more confident and more beautiful. But no garment is worth falling into debt. A woman cannot be strong if her finances are crumbling around her.

So how do you achieve personal style while sticking to your budget?

When I got to the point where I was fearing every telephone call, thinking it was a debt collector, I knew I had to make a major change – FAST. For me, it was changing careers. I had to get away from that which was causing the debt – easy access to current fashion. However I still had mountains of debt and wasn’t willing to sacrifice style along the way.

This was when I started understanding wardrobe staples. Pieces slowly collected that could multitask and make a woman ready for any event in her life. I looked at women I knew as stylish and really examined their wardrobes. They didn’t own a lot of clothes, they seemed to wear the same things over and over. And those clothes they wore were perfect. They were well tailored, high quality, flattering. Few prints, few trendy details. Classics like cashmere turtlenecks, crisp dark jeans, white tailored shirts, simple sheath dresses, elegant black leather pumps, simple pencil skirts. They would add their own look to these staples with accessories like scarves, bold jewelry, and belts.

I thought back to the exchange students we hosted when I was in high school – how they could survive weeks in another country with just a small suitcase of clothing. Even with their small wardrobes, they were ready for any event in the US. Their wardrobes were of simple pieces that mixed and matched with one another – pieces of similar fabrics, colors, and silhouettes so they made a true collection.

I looked in my own closet – spangled knit tops to wear out to clubs that still had tags on them, a dozen cocktail dresses, four pairs of leather pants (and one pair bright red!), three pairs of tall black boots, over 20 pairs of jeans. Who the heck needs 20 pairs of jeans?

I obviously had plenty of clothes at that time, and really tried to make do with what I had. My new job required me to wear all black, so when I didn’t have the right item in my wardrobe, I stalked sale racks until I could find what worked at the lowest price. I often bought in bulk – who cares if you’re wearing the same black pants every day as long as they are clean and fit well?

Over time, I got a grip on my finances, but realized yet another new profession and a changing figure required me to shop again. I decided to keep those stylish women and my exchange students in mind. I looked through my closet with fresh eyes and decided to purge. Gone were all the spangled club tops, the evening gowns, and any clothes that didn’t fit and flatter my current frame.

However for purchasing, I needed to figure out a budget so I wouldn’t get back into a financial mess. Before I went shopping, I took a month or two to look at where my money went, and what were my priorities. Thanks to my sister who is the Excel Spreadsheet Queen, I started tracking where all my money went – that pack of gum, that latte, that issue of Marie Claire. I didn’t just note how much I spent on groceries, but what exactly I purchased. I saw that a lot of my money went to food – dining out, alcohol, and purchasing items at the grocery store that I don’t really need (hello another lip gloss) or that I can’t afford (artisanal cheeses, sushi, out of season produce). I decided to adjust my current spending before shopping to see what I could cut and still lead what I felt to be a joyful and comfortable life.

Only then, could I figure out my fashion budget. Some months, I spent that money. Other months, I saved it up so I could get something really special. I stuck to my list of essentials, and decided I would only buy fun items when I got a work bonus, birthday cash, special events. This way, I not only stayed on budget but I was even more careful with my money and those special items not only were nice to buy, but had special meaning behind them.

Each woman’s budget will be different, but it is important to first pay yourself before you do any shopping. Pay off your debt, save and invest your money. Prepare for the unexpected. Yes, a great pair of shoes can make your day, help you land a job or perfect your wardrobe but shoes won’t pay the rent if you get laid off. Shoes won’t buy you a new car when yours dies on the side of the highway. Shoes won’t give you independence and freedom.

If your budget is small, that’s actually a good thing. Small wardrobe funding requires one to do homework to find the best quality for the price, to really get to know one’s body and lifestyle and only purchase that which makes sense. Keep your wardrobe small, hard-working, classic, elegant.

Tips to Stay on Budget:

  • Have a Life Budget. No point in having a clothing budget if you are blowing your paycheck already on other items. That being said, have priorities. Clothing is probably higher on my priority list than the list of many other women. Each woman is different – some budget for world travel, some budget for books, some budget for art supplies, some budget for home renovations. It’s important to first be true to you – prioritize and then figure out where fashion fits.
  • Make a List, Check it Twice. If you have an actual written list that you carry with you, you’re less likely to get off track when you hit the mall.
  • Do Your Homework. You need a black suit? Go to the mall, try on brands, and then go home. Research online for coupons, deals, maybe the same item on eBay or in a thrift or vintage store. Never accept full price unless it is absolute perfection, absolutely necessary, and still fits your budget.
  • Stay Away from Shopping Triggers. For me, it’s malls. I only visit a major shopping mall once or twice a year because I can get lost in there and leave hundreds poorer. Maybe for you it’s Target (can always justify another tee or a $19.99 sundress but it adds up), possibly an adorable boutique in your neighborhood or maybe it’s Net-a-Porter. Whatever it is, accept your trigger and control your visits. Schedule them according to seasons – maybe only allow one visit each season, or maybe once a month.
  • Cancel the Magazine Subscriptions. I am a magazine-aholic, but I know that when I read them, I end up shopping more. Magazines do a great job of making items look amazing, and seem necessary. The most recent Vogue made me spend an hour of my life looking for a certain Brahmin bag – something I don’t need, can’t afford, but loved upon first sight. I did stop before purchasing, but if I hadn’t received that magazine, I would have never known about that orange bag and would have still lived a happy and stylish life. For some, it may be fashion blogs instead of magazines – even if it’s my blog that encourages you to shop, unsubscribe and just visit maybe once a month or every other week.
  • Play “Which Would You Rather.” Sally McGraw of Already Pretty often hosts a “sudden death” question on her Facebook page – which would you rather do – wear only white for a year, or wear your high school colors for a year, and only your school colors. It’s a good exercise for shopping – which would you rather have – that It Bag, or a sushi and sake date night with your mate once a month for a year? Which would you rather own – the perfect pair of black leather pumps, or six pairs of sandals from Payless? Which is more important, your morning Starbucks, or a pair of riding boots? Break down the price of the item and compare it to other items in your life.
  • Get Creative. No one knows you’re wearing the same black pants every day if you switch it up. One day, wear with a tucked-in blouse, the next day with a blazer and shell. Another day wear a cardigan over them and belt the cardigan to change the silhouette. Use your small wardrobe as a brain teaser – who needs Sudoku when you can take the dozen or so quality pieces in your wardrobe and make dozens of outfits from them.

A woman should get fitted for a new bra every year. She should have the perfect LBD in her wardrobe to be ready for unexpected social events. And she should be able to sleep well at night, knowing full well what is going on with her finances. The best accessory I acquired was getting out of debt – the best accessory any woman can wear is self-confidence, and confidence comes from being true to one’s self, feeling strong, and being financially solvent.



Be sure to check out the first of my How to Shop Series: An Introduction

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